The MPAA Rates Movies More Harshly If Women Seem to Be Enjoying Sex

The MPAA’s relationship to sex in movies has always been problematic, but this new bit of information is still pretty shocking: Based on an anecdote that Emily Browning told Nylon magazine about a sex scene cut from Sucker Punch, it would appear that a movie in which the female character enjoys sex can’t get lower than an R rating. However, it does explain why Jon Hamm‘s cameo in the movie is ridiculously small.

Browning told  Nylon,

“I had a very tame and mild love scene with Jon Hamm. It was like heavy breathing and making out. It was hardly a sex scene… I think that it’s great for this young girl to actually take control of her own sexuality. Well, the MPAA doesn’t like that. They don’t think a girl should ever be in control of her own sexuality because they’re from the Stone Age. I don’t know what the f**k is going on and I will openly criticize it, happily. So essentially, they got Zack to edit the scene and make it look less like she’s into it. And Zack said he edited it down to the point where it looked like he was taking advantage of her. That’s the only way he could get a PG-13 (rating) and he said, ‘I don’t want to send that message.’ So they cut the scene!”

While Browning’s explanation is hearsay and there doesn’t seem to be a cut-and-dried MPAA guide that corroborates it, it makes a lot of sense. Plus, it creates a disturbing dynamic if you take Browning’s quote to mean that the MPAA will award a lower rating to a scene that seems to depict rape, as opposed to sex that a woman actually wants and enjoys.

And while men aren’t condescended to in the same way, there is the strange double standard that in these higher-rated films it’s fine to show the female orgasm on-screen — whether it’s faked like in When Harry Met Sally or “real” in a movie like Unfaithful — but you hardly ever see the male equivalent in non-comedies.

At least Blue Valentine scored a minor victory by convincing the MPAA to reduce its NC-17 rating (for a scene where Ryan Gosling goes down on Michelle Williams) to an R.

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    • The MPAA represents everything that is wrong with a religiously based society. They give female consent a more offensive rater because it looks hotter and more erotic when women are into it than when they aren’t. This fucked up system considers what is erotic more offensive than violence and domination. I remember reading some parents guide or something (out of curiosity) and I remember them saying something along the lines of there is a sex scene but it’s only forced you can’t get aroused by it. What a fucked up system of ratings. I have no respect for a system where female boobs get a movie an R rating but an animal can get torn apart and it’s entrails ripped out and get pg-13.